Making Our Wedding…Ours. Letting Our Personalities Shine Through.

One of the categories that I found that I had a hard time not going crazy with, were those little wedding details like favors, and so on. While I was planning, every one who had been involved with a wedding told me that the longer the engagement, the more expensive and complicated things would become.

Since we had a relatively short engagement ( a little over four months) there wasn’t a whole lot of time for things to get out of control. There were a few things that we decided we wanted to do though.

Some receptions have wedding favors for all of the guests-others do not. I am not sure what the protocol is, or when the situation calls for it. A lot of the favors I have received at weddings were sweet, but when I got home, I wasn’t always sure what to do with them. A wineglass monogrammed with someone else’s initials is something I see often at Goodwill. The same goes for picture frames, throw blankets and stationery. We really wanted something that was going to be genuinely useful.

Lipbalm.

For a few years now, I have been the informal designer for custom lipbalms, sold by a company out of Fort Collins, Colorado. StampWorldOnline sells all sorts of customizable products (I’m pretty sure they sell everything), and their lipbalms are made by Sweets Cosmetics with all-natural ingredients.  I got to design the label, and pick the flavor. For anyone who doesn’t already design their labels, customers get to chose their flavor and have a label custom-tailored to their request. They range in cost from about $1.80 to $.90, depending on the volume of the order.

Picture of custom sunflower lipbalm While I’m no commercial photographer, you can see that the label is unique to us.

All dressed up.

One thing that I oddly wasn’t worried about being able to find something I could afford was a wedding dress. I know a few people who have managed to find things for really good prices. My future sister-in-law went the eBay route. Her dress cost $100, and she spent another ~$200 on tailoring.

A co-worker’s niece lucked out with a new dress. Apparently David’s Bridal has some pretty epic clearance sales. She got a new dress for $99. I had to see for myself.

I had a few ground rules I had set for myself. I’ve seen enough “Say Yes to the Dress” to know that things can get emotional quickly.

  • I went in with the attitude that I was going to be wearing this dress for under 2 hours, max. I tried to think of things in a “cost/hour” way.
  • No matter how pretty the dress, if it was out of my price range, I wasn’t going to try it on. I know people fall in love with dresses all the time, and I didn’t want to have the heartbreak of one costing more than I could afford.

Please come to my party- invitations that didn’t cost the farm.

It’s pretty impressive how expensive invitations can get. Especially when you consider that most all of them will be thrown away after the event.

Since I like to play in Photoshop, we decided that I would design ours. As a result, our invitations were a do-it-yourself  assembled project, with elements from items from lots of places.

First off, I ordered 4×6 pictures of the two of us to include in our invitations. Shutterfly.com gives new customers 50 free prints. I’m highly skeptical, and researched it, but it’s legit. All I had to pay as shipping.

You can also order from Walmart, either in the store or online. In my experience though, I don’t think that their prints look as crisp or high of a quality. Adoramapix is another site that has impressively high-quality prints. I was introduced to the site by our photographers and it lived up to my expectations. They are about $.22 for each 4×6.

I didn’t want our invitations to look like we scraped the bottom of the barrel, so we did more than just postcard invitations.

I have become a big user of coupons from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. Both have 40% off coupons nearly every week. Michael’s has a phone app, and Hobby Lobby a decent mobile site, so you can use the coupon on the fly. Michael’s is where I bought that semi-transparent paper that seems to always make its way in to invitations. A pack of 20 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 is about $6, so the coupon helps. Plus each of the sheets can be cut to 4 or so smaller sheets. I didn’t want the pictures rubbing up against the invitations, so the vellum paper was the perfect solution.

The envelopes I ordered from Amazon.com. While the invitations that I ordered came with plain white envelopes, I wanted something with more pop. I ordered from seller JAM Paper. They have dozens of colors and lots of sizes, so there’s something there for everyone. I paid $5 for 25, and they only charged for shipping one item, despite their policy stating that there was no discount for multiple items. Shipping was just under $8.

My real accomplishment was the invitations themselves. I ordered from Zazzle.com. They allow you to design your own from scratch or use one of the existing templates. The normal prices are about what you would find from Shutterfly or WeddingPaperDivas.com, but they often have coupons.  I’ve seen invitations on sale for 60% off at least twice in the last yer. And I got free shipping as well, by doing a 30 day trial of Zazzle Black, which is basically like Amazon Prime. I spent $16.80 on 15 5×7  invitations.

Parties, parties, everywhere. Divorcing the wedding from the reception.

The single biggest thing we  changed about the traditional wedding schedule was throwing the typical reception out the window.

I have been to a few excellent weddings, where the reception was a hell of a party, but most of the time, things tend to get out of control. But that I mean that the reception gets overwhelmingly complicated, though I have been to one where I decided to leave before something happened that I didn’t want to be a part of.

Instead, we are broke our wedding extravaganza into three different events. By doing this, we kept things less complicated, and were able to spend time with all of the people we care about.

The first was our tiny, tiny ceremony. We had mostly just family there. Our thought was that some of them came from 2000 miles away to see us, so it’s only fair that we do our best to give them our time. The only thing big enough to dislodge some of our relatives is a wedding, so we really wanted to spend time with them. We had our ceremony, followed by a short brunch/lunch, then the rest of day the was free. As it is, there are a lot of moving parts to manage for the ceremony alone, so we were still in need of a nap that afternoon.

After we returned from our honeymoon, my parents hosted a dinner reception in my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado. It’s was a lot easier for the two of us to travel to GJ, than it was for the 25-odd people we would have invited to attend a traditional reception in Denver.
Plus they got way more attention from us. I can’t think of a single wedding that I have attended, including ones I have been a part of, where I spent more than two minutes of the reception with the couple. We only have so much attention, and we wanted to give it to everyone we can, even if that meant we had to break our celebrations up.

We decided to hold the reception at a restaurant so that no one was in charge of setting up, cooking, tearing down or cleaning. We didn’t want to ask anyone to do so much for us. We were throwing the party for everyone to celebrate with us, not work for us.

Our grand finale was here in Denver, and was the event that we invited all of our friends to attend. Neither of us really want to have to draw a line on what people are close enough to invite, and which ones to exclude, so we chose to find away to make our budget stretch as far as we could.
We rented a large picnic shelter at Ruby Hill Park, in Denver. The standard picnic permit fee in Denver is $97. I reserved things a few months in advance, gave them my credit card and printed off the permit. We had more options of venues, since it we were in the warmer months, but most cities have some spaces that are available for rent for comparable prices that are indoors. Denver has several historic sites that are owned by the city that will even allow you to rent the kitchen. (Be prepared for a cleaning deposit if you do that though).

We had food catered (again, so no one is cooking) from one of the restaurants that we frequent. We knew their food is good, and they are not as likely to have strict catering policies and minimum orders and whatnot. That’s no always the case, but we found that by working with a family-owned restaurant, people were more accomodating.

Since we didn’t rent a large reception hall, DJ, dance floor, chairs or speakers, we had a lot more to spend on tasty food.

Where the magic happened.

Another thing that set our wedding apart, was the venue we chose for the ceremony. We got married in a meadow outside of Evergreen. The cost was totally free, since we had fewer than 50 people attending. If you plan on having more than, as long as the event isn’t held for profit, you can apply for a free event permit. The full list of rules and regulations for the area we are going to be [Jefferson County Colorado Open Spaces] are an easy web search away.

Most places have open spaces that can be used for such an event. The rates required vary significantly, and making your family stand in field or hike up a mountain isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us. We wanted to be married before God and family, and outside surrounded by family is about as close as we could get. There’s no roof to block the view or anything.

We chose to get married in the north meadow of Alderfer/Three Sisters park in Evergreen. This spot was particularly appealing, as it has abundant parking, is very flat, and is only a short walk to a beautiful backdrop to say our vows.  There is also a raised hard-packed berm that made it easy for a guest in a wheelchair to get out there. (Or stroller, etc.) Another couple was married there a few years ago, and I was able to find pictures of their wedding via Google. I found that Google Earth often has pictures of events that have been geotagged, so that is another good resource to figure out what things could look like.

Before settling on Alderfer, we looked into some of the more secluded parks and historical sites near Denver. A lot of the city government websites in Colorado maintain lists of places that might be suitable for a wedding, and prices/availability is easy to obtain, if people answer their phones! Just keep trying if they don’t-they can’t hide forever.

I would also advise finding a backup location to say the whole “I Do” thing. Colorado in particular is so unpredictable, so we have been asking around a local churches if we could reserve an hour or so in the morning. We are planning on a late-morning ceremony, so we don’t have that much competition.

A few images of our wedding site…
(Images courtesty of LiefdePhotography.com)

There is also a neat old barn that makes for an excellent backdrop.

“Silk” flowers.

So I think that artificial flowers have a bad reputation. Following my love of euphemisms, I shall call them silk flowers, which is technically correct, as it’s generally understood in the flower industry that silk just means artificial, in this situation at least.

The worst part about flowers in my opinion? They die. They’re expensive too,  but it’s the dying that really gets me. It really complicates and  limits window of time they can be made (arranged) before the wedding, and a lot of the time, they are already looking pretty raggedy before the end of the bigday. Assuming that you are already planning on doing the flowers yourself, I would suggest considering ordering silk flowers.

They are cheaper, never die, and you can do your flowers as far in advance as you please. I have been around for the 1:00am-the-night-before-flower-sweatshop experience, and I heartily recommend skipping that.

I ordered mine from a site that I really like called AFloral.com. I looked a lot of different sites, and I liked that one the best. They have really fair prices, shipping is flat rate (based on total pre-tax purchases) and provide tons of free ideas. The site allows you to search by color or type of flower, and has lots of ideas on their blog and Facebook. Another feature of the site I really liked was the suggestion. Sometimes, the suggestions on pages just annoy me, but this site seemed to offer fairly smart ones.

Another perk was the variety of qualities available. It was fairly clear from the images and the prices, that some items were superior to others. I have seen a lot of fake flowers that were clearly fake, but I have also seen some that were so convincing I just had to touch them. AFloral has both. For bouquets and boutonnieres, I ordered much higher quality items, and for decorations, notsomuch. The descriptions are fairly detailed too, so you know exactly how many blooms or leaves, and what size you will get. That detail is really helpful with shopping online.

They also have lots of promotions, if you look around.

Once you sign up for their emails, you get an offer for $10 off on orders over $100. (I *think* the code is “10Email”)

I used “FLOWER” to get 10% off my order (no minumum!)

I would suggest Googling ‘Afloral coupons’ and just seeing what you find. There are constantly new ones.

I was able to make my bouquet, boutonnieres and a hair clip for my niece with the flowers, a hot glue gun, and lots of ribbon. That’s it. I was pretty pleased with the results. (Images courtesy of Liefde Photography)

All of these flowers were ordered from Afloral.com, but are also available from JoAnn Fabric, as they carry the same brand.

Just the two of us – the case for a wedding party of zero.

**Disclaimer: I know our thoughts on the matter can come across a little harsh, but keep in mind that we want a small wedding, and I never once dreamed of my wedding as a child. We are in no way condemning or passing judgement on those who do things differently.  We simply want to represent that there are other ways to do things, and that that’s ok. Going against the grain with weddings these days causes people to act like you are a crazy old miser. **

 

Perhaps the most apparent diversion from the typical wedding, is the size of our wedding party.

We are not having attendants. No bride’s maids, no groom’s men, flower girls or ring bearers.

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, we don’t understand what role attendants actually play in a modern wedding, other than unpaid assistants. Somewhere along the way, they were added for specific reasons, but our culture doesn’t have the need any more.  Sometimes they served as body-doubles,  or partners-in-crime. Once upon a time, a bride’s consent wasn’t necessary or even asked for, so the groom would just kidnap her. Sometimes it was all in good fun, other times, it was just plain kidnapping and rape. Charming, huh? Thank goodness we’ve come so far. A quick rundown of the history of wedding traditions can be found here.

We don’t want to be forced to choose just a few people to stand by our sides, when we have so many that we care about. Historical roles aside, attendants aren’t something that we feel we actually need. We want all of our loved ones there, and we just can’t bear the idea of needing to pick some people over others. It’s just one day, and we don’t need them to do anything for us, other than celebrate with us.

We also don’t have the funds to fully equip everyone, and we just don’t want to ask people to put so much money into doing something for us. Being in a wedding is expensive. The outfit, shoes, hair, and sometimes, accommodations, travel and time off from work can all add up very quickly. I have heard that the average spent for women to be in a wedding is well over $1000. If we don’t feel the express need for attendants, it seems like abuse to ask people we care about to spend so much money.

 

Our cash-conservative wedding. I will not call it cheap!

Aaron and I are got married this spring, and we are paid for it ourselves. As a result, we did things in a very economical way. However, my determination not to have anything feel cheap or chincy, made that a lot more complicated. Ok, I made things a lot more complicated.

That being said, I know I wasn’t the only one out there that wanted to have a nice wedding without going into debt, so Aaron had suggested that I chronicle my plans. This blog is the result. There are a lot of things that we are saving on by completely omitting. After attending/participating in 10 weddings in just over a year, we really had started questioning what elements of the traditional American wedding were truly meaningful (at least for us,) and which elements were included because that’s what is normally done. We asked lots of “whys?”

All of the “whys” resulted in carving out a many of the elements that are common in a lot of weddings. Later posts will explain what decisions we made, and why.